Faculty Chairs Enhance Campaign’s Impact
by Matt Getty
April 1, 2011
Incumbents of faculty chairs who were recognized at the Jan. 28 event were, from left, Amy Farrell, Ted Pulcini, Ashton Nichols and CandieWilderman.
On Jan. 28, the transformational power of the First in America: Fulfilling Our Destiny capital campaign was celebrated at a board of trustees reception and dinner on campus.
Two new endowed faculty chairs were installed. Ashton Nichols, professor of English, and Candie Wilderman, professor of environmental studies, were named the new Walter E. Beach ’56 Distinguished Chairs in Sustainability Studies in a ceremony that underscored the importance of this emerging field and faculty-development support at Dickinson.
“One of the things endowed faculty chairs allow us to do is highlight academic strengths like sustainability studies,” said Neil Weissman, provost and dean of the college. “We have very quickly attained a status of national leadership in this field, and these chairs help show our commitment to sustainability as a cornerstone of not only our campus operations but also our curriculum.”
The new chairs are two of 16 endowed faculty chairs established through First in America. Cumulatively, they emphasize the impact the campaign has had on the college’s faculty. The more than $42 million in gifts toward First in America’s faculty-development goal has helped the college trim the student-faculty ratio from 12:1 to 10:1 and reduce the annual teaching load from six to five courses.
“Those developments have been essential in helping professors do the intensive work they do today,” Weissman explained. “The reduction in course load doesn’t just provide more time for scholarship, which is important; it provides more time for the one-on-one work our professors regularly do with students. There’s a wholly different way of teaching today. Faculty are working with students on internships, research and fieldwork. They’re giving them individualized attention, and you just can’t do all that unless you have the time.”
Nichols and Wilderman were not the only professors recognized at the event. Amy Farrell, professor of American studies, was named the John J. Curley ’60 and Ann Conser Curley ’63 Faculty Chair, which was vacated by Nichols; and Ted Pulcini, associate professor of religion, was named the Thomas Bowman Chair of Religion and Philosophy, replacing Philip Grier, who retired in December.
In addition, Weissman presented to the trustees the seven faculty members who earned tenure in 2010, Sarah Bair (education), Lucile Duperron (French), Phillip Earenfight (art and art history), Douglas Edlin (political science), Lars English (physics), David Kushner (biology) and Peter Sak (earth sciences).
Though First in America already has reached its $150-million goal, Weissman stressed that continued faculty-development support is vital for Dickinson’s future. The transition to a five-course teaching load, he said, is not entirely complete, since department chairs no longer have one fewer course than their peers to compensate for their extra work. He also noted that the new strategic plan’s focus on enhancing residential life and alumni connections will likely place more demands on faculty time, which means financial support for faculty development will be increasingly important.
“Small colleges are built around human resources, and Dickinson’s core human resource is its faculty,” he said. “They are the heart of this place, and the more strongly that heart beats, the better off we are.”